The Brazilian became the youngest holder of the world title and the first from South American. His famous father, Nelson, has been trying to win this championship for the last 42 years without success - though yesterday's result for his son was clearly just as good as winning the title himself.
The contest began with clear rounds from the four riders on their own horses: Willi Melliger from Switzerland on Calvaro V, the Frenchman Thierry Pomel on Thor des Chains, Sloothaak on San Patrignano Joly, and Pessoa on Gandini Lianos.
Pomel then had problems in the practise area with a reluctant Calvaro, but the big grey went on to give the Frenchman the only faultless performance in the second round. Ironically, it was Pomel's horse who gave Pessoa a clear third round, which was to pave the way to a Brazilian victory. And it was Pessoa's mount who gave the Frenchman the half time fault by which he was eventually defeated.
Once Pessoa had jumped clear in the fourth round on Calvaro (who turned out to be the most accommodating horse of the contest) Pomel knew he had no margin for error with San Patrignano Joly. The Frenchman thrives on pressure ("It can be something positive," he had said on Saturday evening) but, though he rode with his habitual sense of purpose, the middle fence of the treble fell to leave him as silver medallist.
Pessoa (who had also won the World Cup final earlier this year) was already receiving congratulatory thumps and hugs from his father and many other jubilant supporters as Sloothaak prepared for his last ride on the Brazilian's horse. The German needed a clear round to collect the bronze medal and he achieved it, leaving Melliger as the only undecorated rider of the final.
On Saturday the riders' sole aim had been to gain one of the coveted four places in the final. For that reason Ludger Beerbaum, Germany's European champion, was an anxious onlooker during the latter stages of the third individual qualifier.
He was lying fifth on PS Priamos (his substitute mount after the brilliant mare, Ratina, was injured last month) and he would have earned a place if any of the riders above him had knocked down one extra fence.
Jozsef Turi (known as Joe when he rode for Britain in the 1988 Olympics and many other international competitions) was close behind Beerbaum in sixth place. Now riding for his native Hungary, he was the only competitor to jump two clear rounds within the time on Saturday with the fabulous eight-year-old Epona Superville, who is owned by Michael Bullman, the chairman of the British selectors.
Di Lampard, the best of the British team, missed the final by a wider margin when finishing 12th on Abbervail Dream, with whom she had made the major contribution to Britain's team bronze medals. Nelson Pessoa, the 62-year-old father of the new world champion, finished just ahead of Lampard in 11th place.
Nelson's mount, Gandini Baloubet du Rouet, had been Rodrigo's winning partner in the World Cup final. "My father has tried to win the championships 10 times and this is the best horse he has had. It was right that he had him back," Rodrigo said, "but in the end it was not a lucky show for him."
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